Love That Dog

by Sharon Creech (2001)

Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog is a unique and special book. On the surface, it is a story told through poetry. But that story is sly and effective, and works its magic in devious and mysterious ways. In the story, the young protagonist, Jack – who thinks he doesn’t like poetry – is compelled to endure a poetry unit. Every week his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, exposes him to poetry and makes him write it. Jack thinks he can’t, but it is Sharon Creech’s genius that even his simplest objections come out as poetry nonetheless. The first page reads, in its entirety:

I don’t want to.
Because boys don’t write poetry.
Girls do.

Creech uses this simple, magical method to create a story in which Jack explores the poetry of Robert Frost, writes his own poem about his dog, and eventually comes to invite the poet Walter Dean Meyers to his school. It is a short book – can be read in a single sitting – but very touching and moving. As a One School, One Book selection (read at home to families), Read to Them recommends it be read in two weeks, and that it be done in conjunction with National Poetry Month (April), to help foster students’ interest in reading and writing poetry.

Love That Dog thus makes an excellent choice for One School, One Book because it can also teach readers and listeners alike to slow down and appreciate the phrases and clauses and images and descriptions and moments and turns of phrase that make up good poetry – and good prose. In presentations to parents on How to Read Aloud, Read to Them’s Bruce Coffey uses an excerpt from Love That Dog to illustrate his one, over-arching meta-tip: How to read prose like poetry. It is a lesson well learned thru the sly pleasures of a simple, effective story – the story of a boy writing about his dog.